American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Review: A Flagship Card

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American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Review

American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Review

This card is no longer available.  Check out the review of its replacement, the Ascend card.

The American Express Surpass is Hilton’s flagship card.  With Hilton deciding to cut ties with Citibank, and only deal with American Express, it is now their only premium card.  The Surpass card has a rewarding earning structure and comes with a lot of nice perks.

Current Welcome Bonus Vs The Historical High

Through 10/4/17 the Hilton Honors Surpass from American Express has a fantastic welcome bonus offer which ties the best we have ever seen.

The welcome bonus is as follows:

  • Earn 100,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $3000 within the first three months of card membership
  • Get a free weekend night after your first anniversary (2nd annual fee)

Bonus Restrictions

Note that American Express currently has a “one bonus per product per lifetime” policy and you are only eligible for this bonus if you have not had this card before.

Hilton Honors Surpass Earning Structure

The American Express Hilton Honors Surpass earns points in the following ways:

  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors bonus points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors bonus points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors bonus points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.

American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Review

Hilton Honors Surpass Card Member Perks

The American Express Surpass has a couple of very valuable perks of card membership:

  • Earn 500 Hilton Honors bonus points when you use your card to both book online and pay for your Hilton stay.
  • As an American Express Surpass card member, you’ll receive Hilton Honors Gold status automatically and can upgrade yourself to Diamond status with $40,000 in spend during the calendar year.
  • This card is eligible for Amex Offers.


The American Express Surpass fees are as follows:

  • $75 annual fee is not waived.
  • 2.7% foreign transaction fees.

Welcome Bonus Value – $650 ($500 net)

Hilton points are valued at $0.004 a piece. That would put the value of 100,000 Hilton Honors points at $400. The free weekend night is worth anywhere from $100-$1000, however we give it a fair value of about $250. Two annual fees will be charged before the free weekend night is redeemable with a cost of $150. That leaves a (minimum) net value of $500.

While Hilton Honors has gone partially revenue based, there is still some outsized value in their lower category properties, especially in the developing world. Additionally, the free night can provide exceptional value if used at flagship properties like the Conrad Tokyo, Conrad Hong Kong, Grand Wailea Maui (below), etc.

American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Review
Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea Maui.


The American Express Surpass comes with a great earning structure and instant Hilton Honors Gold status (which rivals most other hotel program’s top status).  It is possible to quickly amass Hilton points by taking advantage of the 6X earning categories or via paid stays. The Amex Surpass is also a part of the Amex Offers program, which can help offset, if not cover, the annual fee.

On the downside, not waiving the first year annual fee hurts, however that is becoming more common these days as banks want to see the customer “invested” in their cards. One other downside is the card’s foreign transaction fees. For Hilton customers who travel internationally often, there are better travel rewards cards which won’t take a chunk out of your wallet each time you swipe.

Long Term Keep Or Cancel?

If you stay at Hilton Hotels a few nights a year then this is a long term keeper. Free breakfast obtained via gold status and valuable Amex offers more than offset the annual fee. It is the best available product for amassing Hilton points through spending in bonus categories or via paid stays.

If the annual fee is a sticking point or you do not see value in gold status for the long term, then a downgrade to the no annual fee Amex Hilton card may be a better option. You will save on the annual fee but it does come with slightly lower earning rates and less perks of card membership.


The American Express Surpass card is a compelling card that currently has a very generous welcome bonus.  Valuable 6x categories make it a possible mainstay in your wallet and an easy way to rack up large amounts of Hilton points.   American Express giving Hilton Gold status with cardmembership and valuable Amex offers are just icing on the cake.

Compare Hotel Rewards credit cards here!

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  1. This card sucks. I was offered to upgrade from the regular HHonors card, but didn’t realize it had foreign exchange fees attached, whereas the “lesser” card doesn’t. Don’t waste your time with this – it’s a ripoff. A sad offering from Amex.


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